Canadians generally would consider themselves to be increasingly environmentally conscious and many of our activities such as walking, biking and our drive for healthy living would make us feel pretty comfortable that as a society we are taking care of our planet. Despite a raised consciousness the actions of Winnipeg’s development or more accurately depicted as urban sprawl is creating a society that will become more reliant on cars, more reliant on providing city services to sparsely populated suburbs and an increasing need to provide bus service to the suburbs in an ineffective and not cost efficient or environmentally friendly way to provide public transportation.
Just over 10 years ago the C.D. Howe Institute discussed the implications for cities for developing lower density population communities. The study can be found at http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_160.pdf
When a developer choosing to build communities in what use to be farmland on the outskirts of the city it creates a need for the city not the developer of the community to provide roads, sewer, transportation and as the communities grow schools as well. Currently in the news is the move towards to the revitalization of the downtown. The development of a mixed-use area that involve the building of condos, businesses and services in a small compact zone that increases population density by using currently existing city services. The C.D. Howe study states: “Urban sprawl has become an important policy issue in both Canada and the United States. It is receiving much attention not only because it is a characteristic of urban form in North American cities but also because it raises issues of sustainability: how to accommodate future growth, how to pay for it, and how to minimize the negative impact on natural resources.”
On August 24 in the Winnipeg Free Press there was an article in regards to tax fairness for Winnipeg’s Condo owners. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-condo-owners-lobby-for-tax-break-1.1391188 . The article misses the mark in many respects. The need for Winnipeg to reduce Urban Sprawl is required to reduce the capital costs associated with increased infrastructure development in sparsely populated areas that do not generate the revenue required to support the burden put on Municipal, Provincial and Federal Governments to provide services to these new communities. Creating an Environmental Property Tax Credit for the development of more densely populated communities using existing infrastructures would not only increase revenue to the City of Winnipeg but decrease expenses as well. The benefit also would be our ability to create more cost-effective public transportation systems to reduce our negative impact on our natural resources and environment.
Over the last number of years cities have done the opposite. Winnipeg’s Condo owners use to pay at a rate of 32.7% and without consultation or negative publicity it was raised to 45% while at the same time single family houses rate fell from 48.6% to 45%. If one was to look only at the share is now equal at 45% they would think this is fair. However, studies like the one done by C.D. Howe would tell you it is this kind of thinking that has caused an increase in Urban Sprawl. Our governments continue to look for short-term solutions to raising revenue while not looking at the long-term impact of their decision. If we want to reduce Urban Sprawl we will look at a Property Tax System that recognizes the huge burden on all taxpayers to continue to see the expansion of the suburbs that require extensive infrastructure support and instead find ways to encourage people to consider the benefits not only financially to our city but environmentally by creating more densely cost-effective communities that utilize already existing infrastructure.
For more information you may wish to visit this link which provides numerous links to other articles about the Costs of Urban Sprawl. http://insight.mrsc.org/2013/08/14/societal-costs-of-sprawl-a-new-look/
Visit Smart Growth Canada Network to learn about the principles we should be following in developing our communities.
- Societal Costs of Sprawl: A New Look (insight.mrsc.org)